It has appeared that the subject of personal devotion seems to be getting more attention these days. In my church, a lot of discussion is spent on the three spheres of piety that a Christian should develop: church piety, family piety, and personal piety. Much ink (and typing) has been spent defending the necessity of the local church and family worship so I want to talk about a key component of personal piety: daily commitment to Scripture reading.
I assume that most of the individuals who are reading this blog are not pastors or full-time church workers. This means that for most people, your financial livelihood is not dependent on the time spent reading and interpreting the scripture. Personally, I work about 60-70 hours per week on average so if I am not intentional about this matter, it can easily be neglected. For this reason, I developed a couple of habits that I thought would be helpful to share.
Don’t Waste Your Sabbath
Chapter 22, Paragraph 8 of the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith states that the Sabbath is a day of holy rest in which the entire day is “taken up in the public and private exercises of His worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.” Although this has specific reference to the corporate Lord’s Day worship, this also applies to family worship and private devotions. One can see the Sabbath as a day of rest from the ordinary affairs and work of life; however, one can also see the Sabbath as a unique day in which we can have concentrated time and devotion to the Lord. Throughout the week, there are times in which I may only have 20-30 minutes of free time that can be spent in private prayer and reading. However, on the Sabbath, the Lord has granted me the privilege to spend a significant amount of time in private devotion.
One of the convictions that I developed is to not waste the Sabbath. This means that I prepare myself to be fully engaged for morning and evening worship and I spend a significant amount of time studying the scriptures in-between the services. The Sabbath is also the day in which I can dedicate some portion of my time to reading theology… which leads to my second point
Develop a Sensible Reading Plan
Now, if you have been following the posts on CredoCovenant, you could not have missed the various postings of the M’Cheyne’s Bible reading plan for the year (which is a very nice and straightforward bible reading plan). As a younger Christian, I read the Bible once a year through various reading plans (here’s a list for those who are interested). As my workload has increased, I found myself skimming through my various reading plans just to complete them and consequently, I was not developing a deeper knowledge and familiarity with the scriptures.
To adjust for this, I decided to slow down and do a two-year Bible reading plan in which I read through the Old and New Testaments once, and the wisdom literature four times. This reading plan has been a blessing for me and I would recommend it to anyone who has difficulty finding time throughout their week going through the scriptures.
Part of my reading plan also involves reading good Christian literature. My goal is to read 4 solid books per year, in which two books are modern books (which tend to be easier to read) and two older books (which tend to require much more time to digest). Whereas personal Bible reading is done daily throughout the week, virtually all of my reading on Christian literature tends to be done on the Lord’s Day.
Exhort and Encourage Yourself
We all know that making a plan tends to be much easier than actually completing the plan. There are numerous days in which I’m feeling exhausted and during these times, an encouragement is in order. During times that I’m exhausted, I always remind myself that daily scripture reading is an essential act of worship and I should present myself to God sacrificially (cf. Romans 12:1). In these times, I remind myself that God was never obligated to give me His Word nor was He obligated to give me His Spirit so that I can understand His Word. It’s a privilege, not a burden, to dedicate my heart and mind to the study of God’s Word. For these times, I continue running back to the wisdom psalms in which the psalmists proclaim the many excellencies of the Word of God. Consider Psalm 19:7-11
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul;
The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;
The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold
Sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
In keeping them there is great reward
However, there are times in which I am lazy and during these times, exhortations are in order. Kevin DeYoung’s short book The Hole in our Holiness (which is an outstanding small book) gives many practical exhortations to stir us on through our laziness. Gratitude is a great motivation for studying the scriptures, but during my lazy time, I need to be reminded of my duty and calling in this matter. A classic exhortation passage for me is 2 Peter 1:5-9 in which we are reminded that anyone who is not striving with all of their effort in sanctification is “so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.” Therefore, we are called to “make our calling an election sure.”
Hopefully this has been an encouragement to you and I hope that in this new year that you will discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness through the study of God’s Word.